This community-led regeneration project for Hackney Co-Operative Developments is internationally recognised as a model for future social regeneration.
A Square for Dalston
Hawkins\Brown started working on Gillett Square in the 1990s. At the time it was a disused car park surrounded by derelict buildings, inhabited by drinkers and drug dealers, and avoided by the local community. The challenge, to transform it into a public space where local people of all ages could come together.
Making it Happen
The idea of a public square in Dalston had been discussed locally over many years as part of a community wide consultation by Groundwork East London and Hackney Cooperative Developments. We worked in close partnership with these groups to prepare a masterplan, that would realise this vision, of a sustainable community-led space to represent local cultures and ethnic groups, and provide a catalyst for investment.
With HCD we established the Gillett Square Partnership, bringing together the private sector, local authority and voluntary sector to establish a vision and a business plan for the square, and to project manage its construction.
“As the first to receive funding and reach completion, it shows that with good planning, design and attention to careful landscaping, we can improve many of London’s run down but precious open spaces and turn them into places we want to go and pass time in, rather than to avoid.”
Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London
A Project of Many Parts
The first phase of the project was the retention and repair of the derelict Victorian terrace in Bradbury Street. We helped to raise funds to convert these to workshops, studios and shops, and designed and built a circular building at the entrance of the square to house HCD’s headquarters. By introducing market pods, we established local trading, and further funding enabled us to convert two derelict terraced buildings into the Dalston Culture Club, which attracted the Vortex Jazz Club, introducing a popular destination and 24/7 activity into the area.
To support and connect these new buildings, we converted the derelict car park into a new town square; knitting together the surrounding buildings and providing communal outdoor space for performances and teaching. In 2006 Gillett Square was opened as the first of the London Mayor’s programme of 100 new public spaces for London.
Capturing the Journey
An Arts Council sponsored project enabled us to work alongside photographer Andrew Cross, to record and explore the nature of the Square before and after the redevelopment. It captures the dramatic transition from an unsafe “back lot” in Hackney to an accessible and popular place for the community to meet, shop, celebrate and take political action.
“An urban souk”
The Sunday Times